President Joe Biden revealed his $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan this week, a wide-ranging proposal that tests the definition of an infrastructure bill for Republican opponents.
The bill includes major investments in roads, bridges, broadband, locks and dams, the electric grid, electric cars, passenger rail and much more. It also, though, includes investments in the nation’s safety net.
Elizabeth Schmitt, a political science professor at University of Wisconsin-Platteville, said Biden’s plan keeps the last of a series of big promises he made on the campaign trail.
“Throughout President Biden’s campaign, he mentioned how we really need to revitalize our infrastructure in the United States,” she said. “This is him making sure that that conversation continues. He can point to this and say this is something from my first 100 days.”
University of Northern Iowa political science professor Chris Larimer said this is something both parties have clamored for in the past.
“Both parties, every year, tell us about infrastructure reform and how we’re going to do it,” he said. “The challenge for the Biden administration is everything is so polarized.”
Area Republicans were immediately critical of the proposal.
“Well, according to the Biden Administration, infrastructure is just a buzzword for every progressive wish-list item under the sun,” wrote U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, in an open column. “Sadly, the president’s recent ‘infrastructure’ road map takes a very sharp left turn at the expense of American jobs and taxpayers.”
The Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce also expressed a mix of optimism and disappointment in how the plan was developed.
“We are encouraged by the discussions on Capitol Hill to invest in America’s infrastructure,” said chamber President and CEO Molly Grover in a statement. “However, the chamber is concerned about efforts to pass such a sweeping package without bipartisan support and at the cost of higher taxes on the very companies that will help make the investments a reality.”
The chamber’s release urged Republicans and Democrats to work together on a package to protect small-business owners “who can’t afford another tax increase.”
Schmitt said infrastructure is one place where voters, at least, could come together in support.
“We know that elites are very polarized,” she said. “But oftentimes voters are not nearly as split as they appear to be. There’s potential here for there to be more common ground among voters and what constituents want than it might appear in these last few days.”
But Larimer said all of that leaves Biden with some tough choices.
“For the administration, they have to decide if this is the big policy bill they want,” he said. “Are these the two bills (along with the American Rescue Act) they want to run on? Because when you get to 2022, if there’s any loss in the Senate, they lose unified control and then it’s over. Do they use all their political capital to pass this in full, or does this get split up to try and engage Republicans and these regional coalitions? Then, it becomes a smaller bill.”
Bustos supports federal aid to townships
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., joined nearly all the state’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, also a Democrat, in sending a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on behalf of Illinois’ townships.
In the letter, the delegation argued that townships deserved a piece of the same Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund — established by the American Rescue Plan — that other local governments could access.
“We urge you … to interpret … the law to the fullest extent practicable so that townships receive the support Congress intended them to receive,” the letter read. “Given the critical role that townships play in our state, we believe they merit direct allocation from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.”
Iowa Democrats tap new leader
The Democratic Party of Iowa announced a new executive director this week in Erin Davison-Rippey.
According to a press release, Davison-Rippey was the former state executive director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa and Planned Parenthood North Central States. She also worked with the State Public Policy Group and Youth Policy Institute of Iowa.
“This is an important moment for Iowa Democrats,” Davison-Rippey said in the release. “After the challenges over the past year, our state is desperate for leadership that will finally give families, workers and small businesses the tools they need to succeed. That’s exactly what Democrats in the Legislature and the Biden-Harris administration are delivering.”
Iowa Republicans continue defense of Caucus
The Republican Party of Iowa hit back at a Politico piece this week, which was critical of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status in coming presidential elections.
“Attacking the Iowa caucuses and other first-in-the-nation states is nothing new for people like Harry Reid and coastal elites who think they know better than everybody else,” said Iowa Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann in a statement, promising unity with other early state counterparts.
Chesney pushes vaccine choice
Illinois Rep. Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport, co-sponsored legislation this week that would make it illegal for businesses to force COVID-19 vaccinations on their employees.
“It’s your CHOICE!” he posted on Facebook.
The COVID-19 Work Vaccination Limit stops employers in Illinois from creating, implementing or enforcing workplace vaccination programs that require employees to demonstrate that they have received a vaccine.
7 p.m. Thursday, April 9 — Wisconsin Rep. Loren Oldenburg, R-Viroqua, will hold a state budget listening session at Prairie du Chien City Hall, 214 E Blackhawk Ave.